Looking back on my life thus far, there were a few times when I easily could have ‘kicked the bucket.’

In 1999, I learned I had Stage 3 breast cancer. That meant there were cancer cells in some of my lymph nodes, and that I would have to undergo both radiation and chemotherapy.

My left breast was amputated in mid-October, and I eventually underwent four sessions of chemotherapy, followed by eight weeks of daily radiation treatments. (Thankfully, no treatments on the weekends.) I called it my ‘radiation vacation,’ since I was temporarily free of the poison being pumped into my body. Following my ‘vacation,’ I had a different kind of ‘chemo’ for another four sessions.

For the next several years, I swallowed cancer-fighting medications. In 2011, I had elective surgery to remove my right breast. This October will mark 20 years of cancer-free oncology visits.

In June of 2012, I underwent brain aneurysm surgery, spending my 67th birthday in the hospital. The aneurysm was discovered accidentally, and I’m convinced that surgery saved my life. (Some friends thought I went ‘under the knife’ just to prove I have a brain.)

I’m trying to celebrate each new birthday with joy instead of complaining about getting older. As Hollywood icon Bette Davis once stated, “Getting old is not for sissies.”

I keep pondering those words as I deal with the inevitable consequences of aging: Enduring new body aches here and there; experiencing senior moments and brain farts; owning a large, plastic box that houses prescription and non-prescription pills; watching my wrinkles get wrinkles; and playing connect-the-dots with the liver spots that keep showing up on my hands and arms.

Getting older isn’t all ‘bad.’ There are a lot of positives connected with aging, such as growing wiser and more compassionate. As the years pass, we can mentor those who are younger and help transform the many lives we touch. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren often bring new light and energy into our lives.

I’m thankful to still be above ground, especially since many of my friends and relatives aren’t. My first husband lived just 38 years; one of my mother’s brothers died at age 10; one of my identical twin granddaughters died in utero at six months; my brother’s only son died at age 20.

One of the most difficult challenges of life is facing the loss of people we care about.

Last week, yet another 1963 MUHS classmate, Jerome Patrick Flynn III, died.

“Pat” was a football player, a member of the Lettermen’s Club, Debate Club, and Forensics Club, and an all-round good guy. His younger brother, “Chuck,” was in band and pep band with me.

When I read Pat’s ‘obit,’ I was surprised to learn he was the oldest of 10 children; seven boys and three girls.

A portion of Pat’s obituary read, “He is now in heaven with [his parents] and his loving wife, Susie. He is likely working on some type of repair project in the big garage in the sky, where you can never lose any tools.”

I’ll miss you, Pat.

Leanne Lippincott-Wuerthele, a native Miltonian who has lived in Minnesota and Iowa, has been writing Sunny Side Up for about 40 years. A graduate of Milton Union High School and Milton College, she has written four books.

She has two children, three stepchildren, and a blended family of 11 grandkids.

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